The Front Range may be a hotbed for locally sourced food and meal delivery kits, but a service that combines both is rarer to find.
But that is changing — Joy Rubey, who lives part-time in Denver, launched Spade & Spoon late last year and its first deliveries went out to customers from Fort Collins to South Denver in December 2022. It is the Boulder area’s first meal delivery kit that sources local ingredients, Rubey said.
“It’s a fun way to approach a very broken food system, a delicious way to approach it,” she said.
Rubey sources the produce, dairy, meat and packaged goods from vendors with organic growing practices and ranchers who use humane processing methods within 150 miles of Denver, where the company is based, including several from Boulder.
On Spade & Spoon’s website, customers can choose meal kits, each with a recipe and enough ingredients for four servings. They range from $30 to $50 per kit, falling on the higher end if they include meat. The kits rotate by what’s in season.
Customers can also choose subscription meal boxes. Options include vegetarian, family classics, surf and turf, or gluten- and dairy-free boxes — which include three pre-selected meals.
“This helps [vendors] know how much produce to harvest or meat to process, allowing them to minimize wasted resources,” Rubey said.
This isn’t Rubey’s first local meal kit company. In 2011, Rubey’s husband left his career and leased a piece of land in Acme, Washington — where the Rubeys still live part of the year — to grow produce for his family and friends. Rubey joined him, leaving her job in architecture. Together, they founded Acme Farms & Kitchen, part of the first wave of meal kit delivery companies and the Pacific Northwest’s first locally focused service, Rubey said. (HelloFresh launched in 2011, and Blue Apron joined the market in 2012.)
At the time, the Rubeys wanted to find a year-round way for farmers like them to sell local organic food to the communities in Acme. Farmers often lose revenue, and their main channel for selling produce, when summer markets close.
“When the farmers markets close, it’s very hard [for the farmers] to have a sustainable business if their income stream instantly goes away,” Rubey said.
Spade & Spoon, she said, similarly seeks to support small food businesses with another avenue for income. Several of the company’s vendors are regulars at the Boulder County Farmers Market and other markets across the Front Range. She said she chose the area because she has family in Denver and saw an opportunity.
Rubey met Ash Clifford, founder of Denver’s Not Bad Cooks sauces, at Denver’s City Park Farmers Market in 2022, the sauce company’s first market season. A majority of Clifford’s business had come from farmers markets. This winter, her first market off-season, she planned to sell direct to consumers through her sauce club. She also was making a thousand jars of apple butter for a farm so its fruit didn’t go to waste. Rubey persuaded Clifford to include her apple butter, chimichurri and vodka sauce in Spade & Spoon meal kits, to augment her off-market income.
“Spade & Spoon perfectly fits into my business model,” Clifford said. “Their busiest months are those opposite farmers markets.” Per Acme Farms & Kitchen’s data, Rubey expects Spade & Spoon to have the most customers October through March, before sales dip in the summer months.
Jesse Albertini, founder of Denver-based Sfoglina pasta — Rubey’s pasta vendor, along with Pastificio in Boulder — said that, in her first month or so of wholesaling to Spade & Spoon, she has made less money than she does at farmers markets. But she’s hopeful the meal kit service will become a lifeline during the market off-season.
“It’s going to be a great consistent source of income, once they really get popular,” Albertini said of Spade & Spoon. By selling wholesale, Albertini hopes to spend less on marketing while introducing her brand to new customers.
The meal kit recipes are similar to the more than 900 seasonal recipes that Washington-based Chef Andrew Clarke helped create for Acme Farms & Kitchen. But Spade & Spoon recipes have a Colorado twist, with food sourced from about 30 local vendors currently, including Boulder-based Falafel King and Mountain Girl Pickles.
For instance, Spade & Spoon pairs Not Bad Cooks’ vodka sauce with Buckner Family Farm’s Italian sausage and Pastificio’s conchiglie shells. For breakfast, Five Freedoms Dairy’s yogurt is combined in a kit with Boulder company Bjorn’s lavender honey, Boulder-based Purely Elizabeth granola, and when in season, farm fresh peaches.
Food arrives to Spade & Spoon on Monday and Tuesday, then is packed Tuesday mid-morning with orders out for delivery by that afternoon.
“We make sure that we do an order cycle that works for producers, works to reduce food waste, and that works to reduce the miles of the driver,” Rubey said, since deliveries are routed to cut down on emissions. “Everything is about efficiency.”